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New series 'Community,' premiering Thursday on NBC

Verne Gay
Newsday (MCT)
COMMUNITY - 9:30 p.m. EDT Thursday - NBC

REASON TO WATCH: Ken Jeong, Joel McHale, John Oliver, Chevy Chase ... and so on. An amazing comic cast.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Jeff Winger (McHale, host of E!'s "The Soup") is a speed-talking smart lawyer, or rather former lawyer who was disbarred because he lied about his college degree. (Went to "Colombia" ... now, he's got to get one from America! BA-dum.) He's come to Greendale Community College to get some easy credits because he figures a former client (Oliver, "The Daily Show"), now a prof at Greendale, will get him test answers.

Meanwhile, Winger fakes a little bit of Spanish to impress Britta (Gillian Jacobs), then launches a Spanish study group, which is a magnet for oddballs (cue "The Breakfast Club" jokes). They are Abed (Danny Pudi); Pierce (Chevy Chase), who created baby wipes and for some reason is at Greendale; high-strung Annie (Alison Brie); jock Troy (Donald Glover), and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown). They all adore Winger, Britta excepted.

BOTTOM LINE: "Community" was created by Dan Harmon, and his NBC bio reads: "Harmon is a native of Milwaukee, Wis. He's 36; he has chronic heartburn, a perfect girlfriend and a cat with no teeth. Wish him luck on this new adventure in life."

And wish him luck we will. Harmon is a horse of a different color, indeed — a co-creator and scribe on "The Sarah Silverman Program," and co-writer of 2006's "Monster House," a big-screen animated feature about a house that turns into a you-know-what. He spent a lot of time in community college — and apparently never graduated.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that Harmon may be as qualified to produce this show as his cat. And that, by the way, is a good thing. "Community" can be fresh, funny, smart and extremely aware of its own cleverness; it also can be terrifically odd — odd good, or odd bad, or sometimes odd-good-bad-strange all at once. By the time you get to the second episode, you'll see exactly what I mean.

Just wait for Jeong's Senor Chang, who makes his entrance next week. That alone makes this ride worthwhile, and maybe — maybe — a ride for the long haul.


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